Denver routs Providence in Big East Championship tune-up

Photo Courtesy DU Lacrosse

For the second time in three weeks, the top-ranked University of Denver Pioneers lit up the scoreboard with 17 goals against the unranked Providence College Friars. Three weeks ago, in Providence, RI, the Pioneers outscored the Friars 11-2 in the second half to pull away and seal the victory. This time around, it was an 8-0 run that straddled halftime by the Pioneers that put Providence away.

Prior to the Pioneers’ eight-goal run, the Friars wouldn’t let the Pioneers pull away early. Despite scoring the game’s first three goals, the score was just 3-2 in favor of the Pioneers after the first quarter.

Star attackman Connor Cannizzaro struggled to get on the scoreboard early and the Friars tried to take advantage. With 9:33 left in the second quarter the score was tied at 4 apiece. Cannizzaro had just one goal and the game was in the balance. The Friars looked like they believed they were in the game.

The Pioneers thought otherwise. Powered by three straight goals by Zach Miller and another two tallies from Cannizzaro, the Pioneers pulled away with a five-goal run to end the first half. By halftime, the Pioneers led the Friars 9-4.

“Matt Brown had our offense really prepare for the zone defense tonight, and that’s all we practiced all week,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “I thought it really showed. I thought our ball movement, it was really good. Finally got some goals from the inside, and that’s going to carry us well for the rest of the year.”

The Pioneers picked up right where they left off in the second half and left little doubt about who the better team at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium was on Thursday night. By the end of the onslaught, the Pioneers had outscored the Friars 17-8. That didn’t keep Providence from holding their heads high, proud of their accomplishments this year.

“Our seniors set a new path and gave us a taste of what it is like to be here,” Providence head coach Chris Gabrielli said. “We were relevant in May for the first time in a long time; first time since being a member in the Big East.”

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Pioneers were able to play in front of a full home crowd with a sold-out student section. It has been over a month since the Pios have played in good weather.

“We finally got good weather for once this year, and we just love playing at Peter Barton in front of our home crowd,” Cannizzaro said. “The student section is always awesome. They just support us, and when they’re cheering, it just gives energy to the entire team and just keeps us going.”

“[Denver is] definitely the lacrosse capital of the West,” Baptiste added.

Tierney chose to rest the bulk of his starters for much of the second half ahead of a rematch with Marquette on Saturday. As it will be the second matchup between these two teams in as many weeks, the Pioneers want to utilize any and all advantages over the Golden Eagles.

“When we got to that fourth quarter, putting that second attack in, stopping running our first midfield, taking Trevor out after a couple in the third, getting Alex 10 minutes rest, you hope it can pay great dividends,” Tierney said. “In their minds, it’s a lot. And they love watching the other guys get in, and that’s really important.”

Tierney has consistently preached both to his team and to the media about winning three different championships during the year. The first being the regular-season BIG EAST championship. The second is winning the BIG EAST tournament while the third is the National Championship. Right now, the focus for Tierney’s team is to win the second on their way to that third.

A victory over Providence is just another step on their road to their second championship. While this victory may be sweet, they have a good, high-quality opponent in Marquette on Saturday afternoon.

“[Marquette Head] Coach Amplo’s going to have that group ready, Tierney said. “We were up 12-6 going into the fourth quarter against Marquette the other day, and they made it a game from that point on, so we know what we’re in for.”

The Golden Eagles’ main goal every year is to beat Denver. That is the program’s sole focus in recruiting and in practice every year. The Golden Eagles will be looking to swoop down and claw the Pioneers on Saturday so the Pioneers can’t enjoy this victory over Providence for too long.

Denver plays Marquette for the BIG EAST Championship on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM MT at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Click here to purchase tickets.

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